Posted by Chris Henry, South Kitsap reporter
Update 4/5/08: Here is a link to a statement sent by
Westland Meats to schools districts. It indicates that the
employees in the video who were filmed rousing downed cattle with
hoses and fork lifts were dismissed.
Here is a link to the statement regarding the video from U.S.
Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer.
Here’s a excerpt from Schafer’s statement, “While we are
conducting our investigation, today, USDA has indefinitely
suspended Westland Meat Company as a supplier to Federal food and
nutrition programs. Westland Meat Company will not be permitted to
produce or deliver any products currently under contract. Under the
suspension, no further contracts will be awarded to Westland Meat
Company. The suspension will remain in effect until all
investigations are complete and appropriate action is taken by the
Department. An administrative hold has been placed on all Westland
Meat Products that are in, or destined for Federal food and
Original post Feb. 2
By now you’ve probably seen the horrific undercover video taken by
the Humane Society of the United States at Hallmark Meats, a
California slaughterhouse that is one source of beef for the
National School Lunch Program. The slaughterhouse is now under
investigation by the U.S.D.A., and Washington school districts have
been advised by the state’s Office of the Superintendent of Public
Instruction to put a hold on any meat that may have originated at
Hallmark until the investigation is complete.
Kitsap and North Mason school districts are conducting thorough
inventories of all their beef products to make sure no bad meat
turns up on students’ trays.
A hold on potentially tainted beef is different from a recall,
explained Skip Skinner, supervisor of food distribution for OSPI.
The video shows cows unable to stand being prodded with a forklift
and sprayed with water in an apparent attempt to get them standing.
(You can see part of the video at
Clearly, the Humane Society video brings up two separate issues:
Violation of Federal laws in effect for health reasons, and the
humane treatment of animals. Federal law prohibits the slaughter of
downed cows for human consumption because of concerns about
potentially fatal illness caused by e coli, salmonella and mad cow
disease. But if inspectors determine that meat from the downed cows
is not in fact tainted, the already shipped products now on hold
will be released as fit for consumption, Skinner said.
Todd Miller, food service supervisor for Bainbridge Island
School District, said that while he doesn’t know the specifics of
the problem with Hallmark and has not seen the video, he believes
people shouldn’t get overly worried about tainted meat. Miller’s
family raised cattle when he was growing up, and he is familiar
with slaughterhouses. He said cows can go down for reasons other
than being sick, including broken limbs, pinched nerves and sheer
“All sorts of things can make an animal not want to get up,”
said Miller, speaking in general terms. “In (reputable) slaughter
plants, they try to do it as humanely as possible. They try to keep
the stress down as much as possible, but ultimately, the reality is
the animal is going to be put down.”
Miller, again with the qualifier that he has not seen the video,
said he doesn’t feel squeamish about slaughtering that is done
“I’ve seen it. I grew up around it. I’m not bothered by it,” he
said. “A lot of people don’t equate what they’re eating to how they